Monday, May 26, 2014

Time to Take a Holiday

Today is Memorial Day. My grandparents called it Decoration Day. Whatever name you choose to call it, this is a day of honoring through our remembrances those who have died in our nation's service. I think about those who selflessly serve our country and those who have made that ultimate sacrifice for our nation's freedoms. To them, we owe much. Somewhere along the line, Memorial Day also became the unofficial beginning of summer, so Larry and I enjoy this afternoon with a potluck picnic among church choir friends. At the beginning of spring this year, I decided to decrease my number of blog posts to two times weekly in order to afford more time outdoors, something I've craved during our long, long, harsh and hard winter. Now, I've made yet another decision. Beginning with this holiday, I am going to start my own "unofficial" summer vacation and write only one blog post per week, posting on Sundays at 4:00 p.m. While the days are long, the temperature warm, the grass green, the birds in song, I just have to be outdoors as much as possible. Thank you for sticking with me as I limit myself to one post per week. I'll look forward to our Sunday evening conversations. As always, I enjoy your feedback.  Happy Summer!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ring those Bells

We're rapidly reaching that time of the year when the school bells will ring for the last time as summer break begins. When the days start to get warmer, I think back to when I was a little girl and the mixed feelings I would have as the school year wound down and endless summer vacation began. I always loved school, so I wasn't in a hurry to see it over. Then again, I loved summer, for it meant that my dad's annual lecture tour circuit would come to a close so he could be home with Mom and me for three solid months. I vividly recall my mom and dad picking me up on the last day of the school year some 50 years ago.  Dad was going to go snake hunting (lecturing in schools across the U.S. about the value of snakes was his occupation).  Mom had packed a lunch and we were going to wade in a nearby creek, admiring the marsh marigolds, while Dad attended to business. Then, we'd all picnic alongside the bubbling, babbling water. It was one of those glorious spring days when all seemed sunshine and relaxation. Worrying wasn't even in my vocabulary and time constraints couldn't have been farther from my mind. On these lovely spring days, part of me must still be that little girl, for I think of relaxing in nature, feeding my soul, packing a picnic and admiring the wondrous beauty of life. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

26 Years, 56 Years

Today is a special day on my calendar.  It is the day between the 26th anniversary of my first mastectomy and my 56th birthday. I think back to 26 years ago when I turned 30 while in the hospital, recovering from what would be my first of two breast cancer experiences and three total cancer experiences. Everything felt so uncertain and unsettling on that birthday. Young people didn't get cancer, in my 30-year-old perspective. Today, sadly, I know differently. At that time, however, it felt like a very lonely place to be diagnosed as a young adult cancer patient. My friends were marrying, having families, seeing their children off to kindergarten, growing their careers, building homes, and here I was in the hospital, trying to figure out what it would mean to be a cancer survivor. Two and a half decades later, I see the world with different, more mature eyes. Each day is, as my mother would remind me, a day that the Lord has made. Each year I can blow out birthday candles is a blessing. Each moment when I can experience joy and love and peace is a moment to savor, for such precious moments can be taken away only too quickly. So, on this in-between day, I celebrate Life and am grateful for all I've been given.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Breakfast with Champions

This morning, I had the pleasure of attending what I would call a breakfast with champions, an opportunity for our Aging & Disability Resource Center to thank its volunteer corps for the work they do generously, selflessly, faithfully all year long. In my 30-year career, I have had the opportunity to work with and supervise volunteers in all three of my professional positions. My first experience was at Circus World Museum where I supervised our 275-strong volunteer staff for over 15 years. These talented individuals did everything from help restore antique circus wagons to usher at performances, greet guests to stuff mailings, host school bands to guide tours. It was during that era of my life when I came to realize how very powerful and meaningful volunteerism can be. In my next career as the director of the St. Clare Health Care Foundation for the next 12+ years, I worked with a volunteer board of directors whose civic and business leadership translated to the dynamic strength of our not-for-profit.  I also served as staff liaison to a hospital auxiliary comprised of dedicated and hardworking volunteers and I established numerous committees made up of volunteers who lent their expertise and energy to all facets of our foundation's operations. Now, at the helm of the ADRC, I see volunteers in action in new ways as they work one on one with our agency's clients. These faithful volunteers ensure that our clients have a hot meal delivered to their homes.  They provide rides to out-of-town medical appointments.  They assemble our popular newsmagazine for over 5,000 recipients. And more. Today's breakfast was a humbling experience, for indeed it was a breakfast to honor and thank our champions.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Literary Genius

For the second year in a row, I have been invited as an "expert writer" to participate in a Baraboo High School junior literary theme and composition research project.  This year, the students have been asked to research a topic from the 1940s, with options ranging from the U.S. Presidency to celebrities and events of the era. My job will be to attend a writing workshop block tomorrow morning and experience a one-on-one session with a student. I will read the student's research paper draft and then provide oral and written feedback. I thoroughly enjoyed last year's experience where I got to work one on one with two students who shared their research from the 1980s, with one paper about the fashions of the time (or more like fashion faux pas!) and the beginnings of MTV. As someone who has enjoyed reading and writing since I can remember, it is a joy to see that passion shared by succeeding generations. So, I look forward to some good reading tomorrow morning as I learn about the 1940s and how today's high school students interpret and present life during an era from 70 years ago.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Trowel in One Hand, Rake in the Other

In the autumn, those still-falling leaves become an annoyance. How many times does one have to untangle them from shrub branches?  In the spring, it's another matter. I couldn't wait for the weather to cooperate long enough to, you guessed it, untangle last fall's leaves from around our shrubs' branches. There's something about spring that just makes me want to get my face close to the ground and smell the rich, musky aroma of the soil. We live in a condominium where there isn't much opportunity to do yard work, but what little I could do, I was out doing it recently. I also swept the sand from the garage floor and cleaned the inside of my car (including deep cleaning the driver's side floor mat and removing last year's state park sticker). Then, Larry and I wandered our condo association's grounds, making the "official" list of projects for spring and summer. This year, they range from touch-up painting to shrub trimming to re-seeding and fertilizing the lawn. As I take my evening and weekend walks, I see other eager beavers out in their yards, trowel in one hand, rake in the other, thankful that another winter has passed and the hope of spring has sprung forth. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Bless Your Heart

When my mother was moving from one apartment to another, one box of precious items somehow made an unintentional side trip to a local thrift store. By the time we realized our mistake, the box's contents had been sold. Among those items was a daily, perpetual calendar, called "Bless Your Heart." With the flip of each page, your day would be graced with a saying, a prayer and a Bible passage. When Mom had bought herself the calendar many years before, she had also bought one for her sister, my aunt.  One recent weekday when I dashed home for lunch, I found a parcel in our mailbox from Aunt Ellie. Inside was a "Bless Your Heart" calendar identical the one that Mom had treasured and lost. Aunt Ellie had found it in a thrift store in her community and generously wanted me to have it as a remembrance of Mom. I immediately opened the calendar to that particular day and gasped, for the message that day centered on Mom's favorite Scripture passage from the Psalms: "This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." I couldn't help but feel that Mom had had a hand in Aunt Ellie's sending me that calendar and the very specific day that I would receive it. Bless Aunt Ellie's heart and bless my late mom's, too.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jeepers Creepers

While walking at Devil's Lake State Park the last few weeks, I've been reminded of that 1938 song, "Jeepers Creepers," with lyrics that ask "Where'd you get those peepers?"  The song may be referring to someone's eyes, but I was humming the song as we have passed through an enchanting area where the spring peepers and red-winged blackbirds are engaged in jubilant chorus, their voices loud and resonant.  How can such small beings make such a deafening sound, I wonder? On occasion, they've been joined by the loud squawk of a random Canada goose. On a few recent evenings, we've ended our walk with a short drive to the Great Blue Heron rookery where industrious parents have been preparing nests high in the pine trees for their brood. With each week, their prehistoric-sounding calls grow louder in intensity and volume. I savor every scent, sound and sight of spring, for it is my favorite of all seasons. It is a joy to simply be alive, among the peepers, squawkers and singers. Jeepers Creepers.